The toast of Baltimore

Premiere: Big crowd, Levinson film giddily open Maryland Film Festival.

April 23, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's film community turned out in force last night for opening night of the Maryland Film Festival.

From director John Waters to Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber, hundreds of movie fans converged on the Senator to wish the new festival well and enjoy a rare showing of Barry Levinson's "Diner Guys," a documentary follow-up to his 1982 film, "Diner."

Vignettes from the front lines:

Waters, who's been a part of Baltimore film festivals dating back to the mid-'60s, clearly was enjoying himself, showing up with Pat Moran and posing for pictures alongside starstruck fans and more than a few young directors whose works will be shown over the four-day festival.

But he wasn't pining for the old days, that's for sure. "This is so much better," he said, remembering when he was the most underground of filmmakers. "You're not fighting the censors, you don't have to hide out in a church basement, so you can show your films without getting busted."

Several expatriate Baltimoreans returned for the weekend to have their films shown before a hometown audience.

Michael Shamberg, a Boy's Latin alum whose film "Souvenir" is being screened tonight at 8: 30, said he happened upon the festival by chance. "I was visiting my sister and parents here," he said. "I picked up the paper one day and was reading all about this festival. I called them up, said I'd love to get involved. So they invited me."

Likewise, Paul Zinder, whose "Mom Mom Loves Herbert" is scheduled for 4 p.m. today, felt good to be back home; in fact, he'd just moved back to Charm City from Los Angeles a few months ago. "I don't think you ever really leave Baltimore," he said.

But not everything was perfect. Said Dan Rosen, whose "The Curve" is being shown Sunday night at 7: 30, "It's great, but I just wish the Orioles were doing better."

Festival major domo Jed Dietz officially kicked things off yesterday with some comments before introducing Levinson. Among his stated hopes for the festival: that it someday rival Cannes.

Nice to see you keeping your ambitions modest, Jed.

Levinson, who had just flown into Baltimore earlier in the day, admitted to being especially nervous last night.

For this was not only the world premiere of "Diner Guys," it was the first time he had shown it to more than one or two people.

"This thing could go back in the box tomorrow," he said, only half-seriously. "Normally with one of my films, I'll show it to a group of 25 or 30 people and keep working on it."

The film Levinson screened was a rough cut -- he'd been editing it as late as yesterday, he said -- but he needn't have worried about the reception. Raucous, entertaining and frequently poignant, it started the festival on a positive note.

"It was amazing, their reaction. People really seem to like it, and it was great that they seem to be affected by it," Levinson said afterward.

The thrill of discovery was all over the Senator last night. And at their best, that's what film festivals are all about.

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